Booking a cab in China used to require making a phone call. Actually, in most cities, it still does. But if a new mobile initiative in Chongqing catches on, smartphone users nationwide could soon be booking taxis directly via smartphone apps — for a 3 RMB surcharge, of course.
The Chongqing project, which has already gone into effect, works like this: users go to an official Chongqing transportation site to download an app onto their Android phones (iOS and Windows Phone versions of the app are coming soon). After opening it and registering for an account, they can open it to view their location on a map, and hit the “call a cab” to fill in information and hail a cab to their location. There’s no guarantee of how soon the cab will get there — there’s no accounting for traffic, after all — but impatient passengers can even track the real-time progress of the cab headed to their location via the app’s map.
Once the cab has picked them up, they enter the last four digits of their phone number into a device in the cab that confirms the transaction. Information about the trip is then stored in the app, so that if something happens — for example, if a passenger leaves something in the cab by accident — they can check the app for information about the cab’s plate number and company so that they can contact them and get the lost items back easily.
The app also has some other convenient features — and foreign visitors to Chongqing will be pleased to know that it has an option to use English — but the one thing it seems to be lacking right now is a mobile payment option. While I like the idea of being able to book a cab by smartphone, it would be great to be able to pay via smartphone too, especially for those awkward times when you’ve taken a 15 RMB cab ride but you only have 100 RMB notes. (Customers will be able to use their IC Transit cards to pay, but it would be more convenient if they could also use online banking services like Alipay).
At present, this program is only in effect in Chongqing (3,000 cabs are already outfitted, and another 5,000 are currently installing the equipment needed to support the app), but if it works well there, expect other major cities to adopt similar programs. If widely-implemented, apps like this could be extremely useful, especially for travelers who need to book a cab but may not be familiar enough with the city they’re in to describe where they are to cab drivers during a phone call. Instead, they can count on their smartphones to give the driver directions while they relax and wait for the taxi — just the way it should be.
[Chongqing Evening News via Sina Tech]
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